With deadline, Nevada lawmakers take on women’s issues
Among 200 bills facing a midnight deadline, a slate of women’s issues made strides at the Nevada Legislature on Tuesday when lawmakers approved proposals seeking workplace accommodations for mothers and expanded access to birth control.
The state Senate and Assembly worked into the evening to vote bills out of the chamber in which they were introduced to keep them alive, including legislation being considered in part to counter Republican leaders’ continued objective to unravel the Affordable Care Act.
Democratic Assemblywoman Ellen Spiegel is seeking to expand on federal laws with a bill requiring Nevada businesses employing 50 or more people to provide a place that is not only private but also clean for women to express breast milk at work. Six Republican Assembly members joined Democrats in a 33-9 vote to approve Assembly Bill 113.
Democratic Sen. Nicole Cannizzaro has proposed the state outlaw businesses with 15 or more employees from discriminating against pregnant women — a federal law since 2000. Her bill would go further to also mandate that, upon request, those employers adjust work conditions for pregnant women, such as allowing them to sit down intermittently or take additional restroom breaks.
“I don’t think that we should be saying no to legislation that can make it possible for women to say ‘I want to have a family, but I also worked really hard for my career or I have to provide for my family and I want to do both,’” Cannizzaro said.
Senators passed Senate Bill 253 unanimously.
Both bills would allow companies that would face an undue hardship to come up with a reasonable alternative for maternity accommodations and nursing rooms.
Another proposal would allow women to pick up a year’s supply of birth control at a time, which proponents say would decrease health risks and unplanned pregnancies that occur between contraceptive prescriptions.
Birth control pills are typically provided in one- or three-month quantities. Four states have enacted laws allowing 12-month supplies.
Additionally, Assembly Bill 249 would enact on the state level a provision of former President Barack Obama’s federal health law requiring birth control to be provided free of co-pays or other costs on top of insurance premiums.
Democratic proponents backed off of their attempt earlier this session to ban religious exceptions for contraceptive coverage. No insurance companies in Nevada currently claim that exemption, and the state does not track whether individual employers seek release from the federal law, Nevada Division of Insurance spokeswoman Yeraldin Deavila said.
Republican Assembly members Lisa Krasner and John Ellison were the lone opposition to the birth control proposal in a 40-2 vote.
Facing a shortage of federal contributions for rural reproductive clinics, Nevada Democrats are attempting to establish a public-private revenue stream for family planning services. However, it’s unclear how much money the initiative would raise and a Democratic proposal for the state to contribute $4 million is outside the governor’s proposed budget.
“Regardless of what happens in Congress, we already have a health provider shortage in Nevada,” Democratic Sen. Yvanna Cancela said ahead of the 12-9 vote to pass her Senate Bill 122.
The bills all move to their opposite chambers.